The ever-popular trio known as dc Talk has
done it again. Never ones to rest on past successes, these former kings of Christian rap
have reinvented their sound with each new album, from hip-hop to grunge to hard rock,
never losing the distinctive essence and energy that has kept them riding high on the
Christian Music charts for almost a decade.
It comes as no surprise that Supernatural,
dc Talks newest musical incarnation, is fresh yet subtly familiar. Storming
head-long into new musical territory, these three East Coast boys blend driving
alternative pop melodies with revealingly introspective lyrics and a certain
sophistication that may catch listeners off guard.
This ability to transform themselves artistically has been one of the keys to dc
Talks remarkable success, but its not something they purposely set out to do.
"I think its just growth, artistic growth," says unofficial group leader
Toby McKeehan. "I really think it has to be that, because we dont start out
saying, OK, now lets do a post-modern rock album. We just make our record."
Yet there is more than just artistic growth at work in the commanding sound and
message. A new songwriting style, new family ties, and the potential for an entirely new
audience all collide spectacularly to deliver the rich fullness and deep maturity of
Though dc TalkKevin Max, Michael Tait and Tobyhas been a record-making team
for years, most of their songs have been written solo by each individual member. Not so
with Supernatural. "The thing that sets Supernatural apart from any other record, for
me, is that this is the first time all three of us were incorporated in the writing of
each song," says the groups poet laureate, Kevin. "I think all our ideas
about life have taken shape as a whole or a collective in this."
Of course, fusing the creative energy and spiritual intensity of three very independent
men was no easy task. "We learned to work together at a deeper level with this
record," Toby says. "This time we sat in a room together and wrote out the
words, and that was hard. It was a process that I think was good for us; we gained respect
for each other. Thats the most valuable place you can possibly be, to throw out a
lyric in front of other people
But the hard work paid off in the end. "Im proud of the words we worked on
together," Toby says. "Theyre real, theyre relational, but also
bathed in the Word, because our lives are."
But it is perhaps what has happened outside the recording studio that has had the most
effect on what eventually happened inside the studio. Kevin, to the distress of thousands
of female dc Talk fans, finally tied the knot a little over a year ago.
This new dimension to his life has not only softened a few rough edges, but also added
a new depth to his faith. "I think shes taught me a lot about myself," he
admits with a shy laugh. "She grew up in a non-Christian home and came to know Christ
through reading Francis Schaeffer. She treats her Christianity from a logical level and
not a traditional level. Its been a big message to me to find out who I really am.
To not listen to just what Ive been taught, but to look it up and find it myself.
Shes really changed me."
Tobys life is also changing: Sept. 9th he became a father. He and his wife Amanda
had their first child, a boyone who is already falling perfectly into the schedule
of its musical family. The baby was born just two weeks before Supernatural released.
Like any new father, Toby is a little scared, but as a musician who travels quite a few
days out of every month, he also faces a few extra challenges most new dads dont.
"Were very much used to running you know, as a band, from city to city, hotel
to hotel," he says. "Amanda fell right into that. (Having a child) is going to
be a big transition for me, but Im looking forward to it."
As one life entered the world, Michael found himself saying good-bye to a very special
life this year, when his father went to be with the Lord in February. "That was
really hard because all my life he was my hero," Michael says. "He was the
greatest man Ive ever known outside of Christthe best God example. Id
had him all of my life, and it is so hard to lose someone that has been such a big part of
These major life changes couldnt help but touch the music each of these men were
creating; every song on the album carries the fingerprints of each of these relationships.
Toby says theyve learned that a song can reflect Christ, even when the song is about
their marriages, their friendships or interracial relationships. "At first, I thought
we had to write every song directly vertical, from me to Christ and me to God," he
says. "Ive learned that you can write a song that is about our relationships
and that for me is reflective of Christ and what He did for us."
From this revelation flowed songs like "Godsend," a sentimental love ballad
to Tobys wife. "This was my first opportunity to write a romantic song,"
Toby says. "It ties two things togethernot only the romance and passion I feel
for my wife, but the fact that I am recognizing and honoring God for bringing her to
Taking it to the Masses
There is a final element thats shaped the sound and style, though not the
message, of Supernatural. From the very beginning dc Talks goal, according to Kevin,
has always been to "bring our music to as big a crowd as possible."
With more than a million records sold from their last album alone, one might think
theyd already attained this dream, but dc Talk has their sights set higher. They
signed with mainstream record label Virgin Records (Rolling Stones, Smashing Pumpkins,
Janet Jackson and others) for the making of Supernatural.
While this "crossover" more initially caused some concern among fans and
Christian music insiders, the strong Christian message of this Virgin release has allayed
most of these concerns. "Virgin to me is just a carrier for what we do to the
public," Kevin says. "There was nobody in that infrastructure talking about
changing what we do. It was quite the opposite; they realize that we carry a strong
message and to water that message down is to lose what we stand for, to take the
foundation out from underneath us."
Michael agreesrather than this being a step away from Christian music, this is a
step toward the people who most need to hear about Christ. "We used to have a saying,
If dc Talk crosses over, we are taking the Cross over with us," he says. "It was
always our goal to try to find a secular counterpart to work alongside our Christian label
to help get the message out there."
One of the best things about this new relationship, Toby says, was that the group is
also able to stay with their Christian label, ForeFront Records. "But as part of the
deal in staying with ForeFront," Kevin says with a grin, "we told them they need
to change their name to TalkFront."
With the added media attention of the new mainstream partneras well as the
guys loyalty to their rabid fan basedc Talk was able to make Christian music
history when Supernatural entered the Billboard Chart at No. 4, selling 106,213 copies its
first weekthe most ever sold at Christian retail in a debut week.
"We had tremendous excitement at the onset of this project," says Bob Rush,
senior music buyer at Family Christian Stores. "We began with pre-selling, which we
only do for select albums. It was the biggest pre-sell weve ever had."
But still, amid all the hooplaincluding a major tour that kicked off in
Januarythe members of dc Talk stay focused on why what they do is so important.
"Its a sacrifice to come on the road," Toby admits. "I wouldnt
leave home if I couldnt point kids to God each night. Art is important, art is nice,
but for me personally, art is not enough for me to leave my house as much as I do. But the